No longer just a place to sleep, the bedroom is an escape from the world outside — a private retreat where you can relax and be yourself. But to help you unwind you need more than a comfy bed. A restful colour scheme is important, as is a decorating theme that reflects your own individual sense of style.
1. Keep the bedroom close
The positioning of bedrooms needs thought. They should be near bathrooms and away from noisy living rooms. Many modern houses have the parents’ ‘retreat’ at one end of the house and the children’s bedrooms at the other, with a flight of stairs thrown in if they’re on different levels. This is fine if those children are teenagers. It’s not so great if you have to tend to hungry babies or upset toddlers in the middle of the night.
Intercoms are all very well. So you hear the baby cry, but you still have to get up to check what the trouble is. A solution would be to convert an adjoining study or dressing room to a nursery for a couple of years.
2. Will the bed fit in?
Believe it or not, some bedrooms in new homes are too small for the bed. The most popular bed is the queen size, for couples and singles. Many display house bedrooms are too small for a queen-sized bed. It might seem elementary, but before you buy a new bed, measure the bedroom first to ensure it will fit.
3. Windows can be tricky
Make sure there’s a clear wall to stand a bed against. It’s not ideal to have a bed under a window, particularly if it’s the only window in the room. If you’re a health fiend who likes to sleep with the window open, night breezes will blow right between the sheets.
French doors opening to the garden are a charming feature, but they’ll limit your options in a small room.
If you want long windows in a small room, position them either side of the bed behind the bedside tables. This gives the room light and balance but doesn’t limit where the bed goes. Another option is to have two single doors or windows at either side of a wall so the bed can stand between them.
4. Shop early in the day
Go bed shopping early in the day when you’re relatively rested. At the end of the day when you’re pooped, just about any horizontal surface will feel comfortable.
Most bedding retailers expect you to lie down and try before you buy. So wear trousers, then you’re not restricted as you bed-hop. Lie there for a good 10 minutes if you can and try rolling over — if that requires too much effort then the mattress is not right for you.
If possible, take your partner. You want a bed that is comfortable for both of you.
5. The built-in wardrobe
Because space is generally limited in a bedroom, you need a place for everything lest you drown under a sea of clutter and clothes.
The latest built-in wardrobes — which can be designed with period-style mouldings to suit an older house — are models of efficiency. They come with shelves, baskets or drawers for ‘smalls’, pull-out shelves, drawer dividers and high and low-hanging rails for shirts, skirts, dressing gowns and long dresses. But they don’t come cheaply. Look through your local paper for companies near you and shop around for the best deal.
6. Mirrors ‘make’ more space
A small room will feel more spacious if you have mirrored wardrobe doors. If you’re not keen on the ready-made models, design your own. These mirrored doors also mean you don’t need to invest in, or find space for, a separate full-length mirror.
For a different look in a country-style or period home, have mirrored panels outlined with timber moulding like a series of small windows.
7. Built-in bed storage
A built-in bed head will double for storage. A bank of drawers on either side of the bed can enclose a mirrored and lit space behind the bed which can be used as a dressing table. We’ve seen a bed head built against a floor-to-ceiling partition with space behind it for a walk-in wardrobe.
If wall space is a problem, a semi-circular window can double as a glazed bed head. Draughts shouldn’t be a problem if it sits in the wall over the bed with opening panes built high to the top.
8. Inspired by bed linen
Living rooms are on show to the world. A bedroom is a private place where you can indulge your fantasies. Here you can go wild with colour, swim against the fashion tide and generally do your own thing. If you’re short on ideas, check out the latest bed linen collections. The range of quilt covers and matching accessories is so vast, and draws on so many design influences, it’s bound to get you inspired. Plan your bedroom around a favourite set.
Leading bed linen companies produce glossy brochures full of bright ideas which are available from bedding departments, or you can search the web.
9. Make light work of it
Don’t forget power points. You need to make provision for bedside lights, a clock radio, electric blanket, a light over a dressing table and, if a student or teenager’s room, desk lamp, computer and perhaps a television, DVD player or sound system.
Consider lights in the wardrobes so you can see into dark corners and pelmet lighting over the window to give a warm, background glow. And don’t overlook a central ceiling light for flick-of-the-switch convenience when you enter the room. Dimmer control is also a good idea for when you want to create a romantic ambience.
10. Versatile cotton spreads
Sometimes the quality of bed linen is too good. It won’t wear out. If you can’t bring yourself to get rid of a leftover lime green doona cover and pillow case, disguise the lot with a cotton or knit ‘throw’. Washable cream or white cotton bedspreads are sold at most homemaker stores at surprisingly low prices and the range of affordable textured knit throw rugs is wide. Finish the bed with a pile of cushions to hide the offending old pillowcases and the room will be transformed.
11. Have fun mixing patterns
These days just about anything goes. You can mix florals, patterns, plains, spots and stripes. And the more you pile on the bed, the better. Don’t be daunted, but if you are, let the linen companies do it all for you. Bedding and homeware stores sell co-ordinated sets with everything from sheets, quilts and comforters to cushions and curtains.
One way to work out what kind of look you want is to scan junk mail and newspaper inserts. Major stores and bed linen companies frequently produce magazines advertising their bedding in elegant settings from which you can glean good ideas.
12. Some old world charm
Give a new room old world ambience by installing a brass bed topped with lacy linen. Reproduction beds — some with polished metal frames, others with enamelled finishes — are available for a fraction of the price of antiques. And lace-trimmed bed linen is everywhere in a range of prices.
You can also easily recreate that old world French provincial, shabby chic look as ready-made linen, accessories and furniture in this style are available everywhere.
In a country-style bedroom, a blanket box or old trunk can help to set the scene and provide a source of additional storage.
13. Privacy really does matter
Privacy is important so give extra care to the window coverings if the bedroom overlooks the street or a communal area such as the backyard. And depending on the orientation of the bedroom, you may need to block out early morning sun.
14. Hang it on a hat stand
If someone in your family has the bad habit of leaving recently worn clothes on the floor, chairs, bed, everywhere but in their rightful place (the wardrobe), do some lateral thinking. Lazy dressers can fling their clothes all over the stand with only slightly more effort than it takes to drop them on the floor. A heavily draped hat stand is by no means a glamorous piece of furniture, but it can be tucked away out of sight behind the door.
15. Raise up a child’s bed
Lack of space doesn’t have to be a problem in a child’s bedroom. Raise the bed (but not too high if the ceilings are low) and install a ladder so the wall space can be lined with shelves and double as a cubby for a young child. In a few years it can be converted to take a desk. Alternatively, the space under the bed can accommodate banks or drawers for that much-needed storage.
16. Screens in the bedroom
We have talked about screens elsewhere in this magazine, but they are such useful decorating tools it’s worth including them for bedrooms, too.
If you’re not mad about traditional bed heads and you have a big blank wall behind the bed, stand a pretty screen there. It will add a splash of colour, pattern and textures and make a change from prints and photographs that usually hang over a bed. What’s more, when you’re tired of that look you can move your screen around the room. In a corner, it will make a natty little dressing area just like those used by ‘ladies’ in old western movies.
17. Veiled canopy for effect
For a canopy with a difference, hang fabric from a hook on the wall behind the bed and let it fall either side of the bed. Wallpaper the area inside it for added impact.
We have also seen a long bridal veil similarly hung over the bed. Without altering it in any way, the new bride simply hung the veil on a hook and let it drape over the bed. It’s a happy reminder of her wedding day and beats keeping the veil packed away in a box where it’s never seen.
18. Blackboard paint the walls
If your children are in the habit of scribbling on walls, make it ‘legal’ by setting aside a section of the wall finished in blackboard paint for them. This is best done in their bedroom. An easy way is to run a dado rail around a lower section of the walls and apply blackboard paint below it on one wall, or all the walls for that matter.
Their childlike scrawl will look as good as any wallpaper and they will get a real kick out of playing artists. There are several companies that make blackboard paint.
19. Rooms designed to grow
When you’re decorating a nursery, don’t make it too babyish. Children grow quickly and you want the room to grow with them. Bypass babyish wallpapers and borders and stick with neutral shades. Pink or blue tends to look a bit old fashioned and you risk choosing the ‘wrong’ colour if decorating before the birth.
If you use wallpaper, opt for one that can be wiped clean. That way sticky finger marks will be easily removed
20. The handy trundle beds
In many newer houses, bedrooms are shrinking while living areas, in particular family rooms, are getting bigger. Once you have a bed, a wardrobe and a desk or dressing table in some children’s rooms, there is little space left. A trundle bed that rolls under the existing bed is a useful extra if your child likes to have friends to stay.
Well-designed models come with drawers for storage underneath.
Certainly, they are more expensive than a simple folding portable bed. However, they are less hassle and you don’t have to find a cupboard in which to store them.
21. Cantilever shelf saves space
Another sensible space-saving idea for a children’s room is to build a cantilever shelf on one wall. Support it with big brackets underneath and there will be no legs to get in the way of spare beds — one end can be positioned under the bench — or floor games.
The shelf can start out as toy storage and when the child grows and needs somewhere to do homework, it will be a useful desk.
22. Match curtains and cushions
If you are into co-ordination and a dab hand with a sewing machine, use remnants of curtain or doona fabric and make loose covers for pillowcases and old cushions. If you fit a zipper, the covers can be taken off for washing. If making them for a child’s room, include a bean bag as well. These hangovers from the ‘70s have made a comeback. A decorator’s nightmare they might be, but they are certainly comfortable for relaxing or watching television. Bags of foam balls for filling are available from most large stores.
23. Shelving it makes sense
Install shelves on the wall over a bed, dressing table or desk if floor space is at a premium. They can be used for special treasures such as a china collection, perfume bottles or soft toys in a child’s room. Over a student’s desk, they are ideal for keeping reference books, CDs and DVDs.
24. Colour in the bedroom
Having a personal reaction to certain colours is normal and while that response will vary from person to person, there are a few general rules of thumb. Blues and greens tend to have a calming effect while studies in America have shown that red can be overstimulating, so you would probably only want red accents in a bedroom.
Of course, if you want an exotic Moroccan or Mediterranean-style bedroom with lashings of richly coloured fabrics and vibrant walls then go for it. If it makes you feel good, who cares what the colour experts say?
25. Add colour with accessories
If you’re nervous about passing fashion fads and fancies — and these days they affect décor as much as clothes — stay neutral in the bedroom and inject colour with accessories.
Stick with cream or crisp white bed linen and add colour with cushions, a throw rug, lamp shades, curtains or a floor rug.
Make pillowcases purely for show in a rich, colourful fabric such as a brocade, and match them with a throw that you can fold at the foot of the bed. It’s stunningly simple and you can change them as fashion’s wheel turns.
26. What goes on the floor?
Timber floors contribute to a look of warmth but don’t necessarily feel warm in winter so you might want to add rugs where you stand or linger most. They can also splinter, hurting bare feet, if they’re not properly sealed and maintained.
Wall-to-wall carpet is popular in bedrooms because it feels as warm underfoot as it looks. The downside is if you’re an asthma sufferer, carpet in the bedroom is not a good idea because it collects dust and mites.
If laying a new floor as part of a renovation, consider installing under floor heating.
27. Televisions in the bedroom
If you want a television in the bedroom then there are a few things to consider. Do you want it to be in full view at all times, concealed in custom-built cupboards or discreetly placed on shelving? Whatever you do, resist the temptation to just plonk it on top of a dresser or chest of drawers as it will take up space needed for other things and make the room look cluttered.
You also need to consider wiring and the placement of power points.
28. Quick and easy makeovers
If your budget doesn’t run to new furniture, then give your bedroom a facelift by painting what you’ve got. Timber tallboys, bedside tables, bed heads, freestanding wardrobes and mirror frames can all be transformed with a coat of paint. This can be especially effective if you’re going for a country look or shabby chic.
You can have a lot of fun in a child’s room by painting old dressers and the like in cheery colours.
29. The iron-in wardrobe
These days the walk-in wardrobe is almost as much a must-have as the ensuite bathroom. There’s no doubt, too, that it is wonderful to be able to walk in and see exactly what your wardrobe holds. If your wardrobe isn’t big enough to a hold a bank of drawers, it’s worth thinking about installing a small folding ironing board in the top drawer. This means you can iron out those last-minute creases on the spot and fold the board away when you’ve finished.
30. Have fun with themes
Although we sometimes suspect it’s the parents who enjoy themed bedrooms the most, young children can have fun with a theme — cars, planes, space travel, farm animals, creatures from under the sea, princesses and fairies, sports, Noah’s ark, Barbie — these can all be a lot of fun.
If you go for a trendy theme, such as the latest animated movie, your child’s interest in the theme will fade as soon as the film’s popularity wanes, so beware. Same goes for novelty furniture. Your child will probably outgrow or tire of that racing car bed before the credit card bill is paid off.
31. Spruce up the spare room
And don’t forget the guests’ room, or ‘spare’ bedroom as it’s often known. This is a room that often needs to do double duty as a sewing room, home office or somewhere to stow away such things as seasonal clothing so while décor is important, things such as a flexible layout, good storage and adaptable, modular furniture (such as a sofa bed) are probably more essential considerations.
32. Don’t forget a chair
Comfort in the bedroom is always enhanced with the addition of a chair. A well-padded, beautifully upholstered chair provides somewhere to perch while dressing and a place of retreat where you can read a good book, away from the clamour of family life.
It’s also a good way to add colour and pattern to an otherwise plain setting. Of course, it can easily become a repository for discarded clothes, so train yourself to put clothes in the wardrobe or laundry basket, not on your lovely new chair.